July 16, 2018
July 16, 2018
Anthony Joshua

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WE knew Anthony Joshua’s next opponent would be Alexander Povetkin weeks ago. It could even be said we knew months ago, as far back as March, or February, when it was announced the controversial Russian would be appearing on an Anthony Joshua undercard in a fight against David Price.

It was at that point we realised Povetkin was in the running, and that if he looked good in Cardiff against Price – which, a couple of shaky moments aside, he did – there was every chance he’d be shoehorned into the mix, as WBA mandatory challenger, and get the fight every heavyweight in the world wants.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring,” said Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion. “The end of March feels a long time ago now.

“Povetkin is a serious challenge that I will prepare meticulously for. He has serious pedigree and only a fool would underestimate what he brings to the table.

“Training hasn’t stopped for me, but the next 10 weeks ahead will be intense both mentally and physically. I will push myself to breaking point to make sure I am in peak condition for another huge night for British boxing at Wembley Stadium on September 22nd.”

Even when Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, seemed a realistic next fight for Joshua, those of us who have been here before knew enough to know that wasn’t really the case. It sounded good, and will presumably happen one day, but it was always Povetkin, rather than Wilder, who made the most sense for pro fight 22.

It’s still a Wembley Stadium fight, still a big earner, but far less risky. It also sorts out a pesky mandatory obligation and knocks off yet another contender. It bides time. It builds hype for a potential Wilder fight in 2019. It allows everyone connected to the Joshua vs. Wilder franchise to keep making money before pressing ‘go’, closing their eyes, crossing their fingers, and hoping for the best.

And when you realise this, and accept it was this way all along, you can also appreciate the fact it’s not a bad fight and that Povetkin, 34-1 (24), is probably more dangerous than Joseph Parker, Joshua’s last opponent, as well as every other Joshua opponent not named Wladimir Klitschko.

boxing


The big Dillian Whyte vs. Joseph Parker Sky Box Office pay-per-view event is less than two weeks away yet finds itself on shaky ground.

The July 28 main event, a tremendous one, has so far stayed intact (hooray!), and a chief support contest between fringe contenders Carlos Takam and Dereck Chisora remains intriguing (hooray!). But it’s the fights beneath those heavyweight 12-rounders that seem to be causing problems.

First, Joshua Buatsi revealed his opponent, Ricky Summers, has pulled out of what would have been the 2016 Olympian’s first pro title fight. Then, a couple of days later, Brandon Cook revealed his opponent, Kell Brook, had withdrawn from their scheduled fight some time ago (but that this news had yet to be made public).

This development, Cook said, had left a lot of his family and friends out of pocket, having booked flights and hotels. It will also confuse anyone still expecting Brook and Cook to share a ring inside London’s O2 Arena on July 28. Because, according to Cook, that ain’t happening.

What fans might get by way of a consolation is an appearance from Chris Eubank Jr, the middleweight-cum-super-middleweight last seen losing to George Groves in February. The Brighton man has apparently started showing up in a hastily revamped Sky Box Office promo and, without any kind of obvious options on the horizon, this move would come as no surprise. Frankly, it makes sense – both for Eubank Jr and the event’s promoter.

That said, it was only recently Kalle Sauerland, one of the men behind the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), suggested Eubank Jr had signed an exclusive contract with the WBSS and would be bound to that contract until the 168-pound tournament concluded. And while we still don’t have a date for the final between George Groves and Callum Smith, it seems strange to think they might renege on that Eubank deal for the sake of a routine warm-up fight on a Matchroom show.

Not only that, the primary reason for keeping Eubank Jr tied to his WBSS deal was because he could be of use in the final if either Groves or Smith – more likely Groves, due to his shoulder issues – are unable to fulfil their duty.

Ultimately, Eubank Jr just needs to fight. It has been nearly six months since that Groves humbling, and if he’s to improve and rebuild, either as a middleweight or super-middleweight, he needs to get active again. A fight on July 28, if it’s even a possibility, likely won’t mean much, but what it will mean is he’s back to doing what he does best. And that beats waiting to find out if he’s going to be a used or unused substitute for a final that may or may not happen.

Chris Eubank Jr